The circular economy
A certain English proverb goes,willful waste makes woeful want.This couldn’t be more true when economic systems adopted globally ever since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The often adopted linear “take,make, dispose” industrial processes, and the lifestyles dependent on them, use up
finite raw materials to create products with a finite lifespan which end up in landfills or in incinerators.
Such an approach cannot sustain economic growth indefinitely as the resources for production are now deteriorating and yet, the masses and markets for products continue to grow. The global population is predicted to approach 9 billion people by 2030 and collectively, we are using more resources than the planet can provide. Our future depends on reusing what we have in a sustainable way.
Enter the new approach, the circular economy, referred to simply as circularity; an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:
Design out waste and pollution
Keep products and materials in use
Regenerate natural systems
This therefore implies that circular systems employ reuse , sharing , repair, refurbishment,rem manufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste , pollution and carbon emissions. The circular approach takes insights from living systems. It considers that our systems should work like organisms, processing nutrients that can be fed back into the cycle — whether biological or technical —hence the “closed loop” or “regenerative” terms usually associated with it.
All “waste” should become “food” for another process: either a by-product or recovered resource for another industrial process or as regenerative resources for nature (e.g., compost). This regenerative approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy , which has a “take,make, dispose” model of production. It could support the development of new industries and jobs, reducing emissions and increasing efficient use of natural resources (including energy,water and materials).
What if your mobile device had a second or third life? An example of a company that has adopted this approach is HYLA Mobile, a US based provider of mobile device trade-in and reuse solutions. Smartphones and tablets have changed the way many of us live and work, but our appetite for the latest must-have gadget has created a mountain of discarded devices. HYLA Mobile works with many of the world’s leading manufacturers and service providers to repurpose and reuse either the devices themselves, or their components. It’s estimated that more than 50 million devices have been reused, making $4 billion for their owners and stopping 6,500 tons of e-waste ending up in landfill. The circular economy’s many benefits are attracting more and more actors seeking to secure their future in a volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.